"but there are your eyes, gleaming of the hunt"
Genre: Drama, Introspection
Time Frame: TDKR, Missing Scene
Characters: Selina Kyle, John Blake
Summary: She wouldn't have expected to find a helping hand in this town; especially him, especially now.
Notes: For the writing prompt winter, on another website. Because this is obviously where my mind goes with such things.
Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words.
"but there are you eyes, gleaming of the hunt"
It's a funny thing, she thinks.
She had once thought that she had known every in and out that the city had to offer. She knew the back paths and alleys, every boulevard to avoid when making a get away and every route that would criss and cross around town like Ariadne and her ball of string . . .The the city was as known to her as the bones in her hand; the veins in her wrist. The womb of iron and rust around her was more a mother than her own had ever been. Grow, child, the city had taunted. Learn, child, the towers had chanted. Rise, child, Gotham had beckoned, and so Selina Kyle had, but only as far as the mire around her would let her.
Now, all of that prior knowledge laid like ghosts in her head. She picked around their memories with a careful stride, tiptoeing as if around freshly turned graves as she walked down Fourth Street, the click clack of her heels striking the yellow paint in the center of the road, somewhere beneath the ice. She paused on the intersection of Fourth and Grand Ave, the same one that had always had a patrol car waiting for those unfortunate few who liked to blow the light. She stood in the middle of the road for a moment, looking up at the traffic signal above her, hanging yellow and heavy against the grey of the city. It's fuse had shorted out, it's light was now permanently yellow, neither stopping nor going.
Selina loitered, and then pushed on.
The alleys were all darker now; few of the street lamps worked as they should. Bulbs in their cradles were blown, powerlines were in disrepair from the explosions – that was, when there was power to be had at all. The winter was cold as it approached. It would be a bitter season, she could feel it in her bones, in her mouth as her breath frosted on the air before her. Few in the city had heat to speak of, and many lined the public buildings, looking for warmth and security and comfort in numbers. Selina hadn't bothered yet with the soup lines or the supply centers; she could get by well enough on her own, and she was not one to take where others needed more. That, at least, was the same as it had ever been.
Instead she prowled the new ways of the city like one would find bones reset under new skin, committing to memory the sad and quiet lanes, the streets where those of Bane's men patrolled, the roads surrounding what the army released from Blackgate claimed as their's. It was different than everything she had ever known, but she was ever a quick learner, and adaptation was as necessary as it was assured.
The weather was crisp as the days grew shorter and the nights grew longer, even though it has yet to actually snow. The skies above her were heavy and pregnant, thick with a cold she could feel the deep of her. She thought that it would snow that night. Already ice lined the pavement in slick sheets. The river beyond them was an angry sound as ice tried to form in thick sheets on its surface. But the river was strong; it protested. The ice broke when the sun was out, unable to find its hold.
And so, Selina walked to the edge of Gotham and prowled over its boundaries, like some great jungle cat kept to long in a cage. She looked up and saw the ruined bridges, stretched useless over the bay - bridges that had always mocked her, bridges she could never cross, not eerie sentitals in the night, monuments to their hell as they stared out coldly at the city before them. Between their ruined towers, scouting jets flew in tireless circles, ever viligant - useless, saving to do nothing but mock Bane's control, as if daring him to give in and end them all . . .
He . . . or the nameless detonator, she thought, and her hands in her gloves became fists.
She turned from the river then, but the sound of gunfire from right beyond caught her attention. She looked up, her blood stilled.
And she missed her next step on the ice.
It was a second's lapse of concentration – a stupid mistake that could have cost her everything had the sound of violence been any closer, intended for her and not for some nameless soul in the night. But her balance was lost, and her arms windmilled as she sought to steady herself -
- for no need, aparently. For the next thing she knew, there was a hand at her arm, holding her upright. There was a pressure at her elbow, another at her side. She stiffened at both, spinning round with the urge to scratch and claw building inside of her -
Only to see the concerned face of John Blake staring back at her. The cold had turned his nose red, his cheeks flushed pink. Otherwise he was pale, with weariness tucked into the corners of his face, the hidden parts of his body. Even still, there was surprise in his eyes, a heated thing that she remembered as anger and frustration the last time she had seen him. The anger was still there. It still burned, and she thought for a moment that Bane's control wasn't yet absolute, when there were people with such defiance in their gazes. But the thought faded as quickly as it came, even an idea in the mind a dangerous thing to hold in these times, when there was no law to speak of, just a clown's court with a death sentence to be found for both the guilty and the innocent . . .
"You," even still, she found herself hissing with her surprise, her tone dangerous and barbed, even as his hold was the one thing keeping her from falling.
"I could say the same," Blake's mouth was tight, but irritation was the first thing she heard in his voice – an automatic response and defense to any sort of nasty situation, she would wager. She fought to keep from smiling at hearing him so. Right. Iron bars. Orange fabric and thick black numbers. Plea deals turned down, and I don't know where your alligator in the sewer is, and if you know what's good for you, you won't either. . .
. . . well. Look at how well that had gone.
Even so, she couldn't help but say, "I got out on a group pardon. Bane's work, I'm sure you've heard of it?" She rolled her shoulders sinuously, her red mouth stretching on her face like a stain. "Not that I was complaining, mind you, orange was horrendous for my complexion."
"I can't comment on your choice of attire, either way," Blake responded evenly, never missing a beat as his eyes hardened. His gaze slipped over her to emphasize his point, all clinical and detecting, never once lingering in the familiar places. She bristled. "Those heels and this ice, really?"
"What can I say, I have a habit of landing on all fours," she all but purred.
"Like a cat?" Blake snorted, raising a brow.
She tilted her head, daring him to comment any further on that. His friend in black wasn't the only one who could enjoy taking a motif too far. "Something like that," she said stiffly.
Blake shook his head, but he let her arm go. She took a moment to steady herself, to find her balance. She let her eyes flicker down then, taking in the street garb he wore, the gun he had strapped to his belt, the lack of handcuffs and a badge. This was not a world where he had any power over her anymore. She narrowed her eyes disdainfully.
"And what a brave little toy soldier you are, patrolling the streets like this. Bane's men are hunting your kind like dogs," she smiled as if there was something funny about her words, as if it were spring and not winter cold all around them. "Do you have a death wish?"
Even still, there was a warning in her voice. Go home, don't you know that this is a place that would not hesitate to add your blood to the streets? It was all she would say on the matter, and she thought of Wayne for a moment, as if the words were a favor, a token, before letting their intentions fall away from her. Trading words with Wayne had been like circling some hunting creature; this boy in the bat's place was nothing but a sparrow, with weak wings, not yet able to fly.
Her mind turned unkind, and she imagined him standing all parade line straight and thinking, my brother on my left and my brother on my right, knowing that either one of his comrades could not be there on the morning hours. Just an empty body with cold skin and curving bones that would sink like every other body would sink when they found their way beneath the ice.
She breathed in deep with the thought. She exhaled.
Blake shrugged. "There needs to be someone out there to show the people that not everyone has given in to this. They need someone out there to let them hope."
Like a bat in the sky, she heard what he did not say. The accusal was sharp in his gaze. She pretended that she didn't notice. There was a flake of snow by his head, one of the first ones of winter. She followed it with her eyes.
"That's a big task for a little boy," she says instead of answering the unspoken. The ghosts in their graves, and all that.
Blake shrugged. "It's a big city, and I – we– are doing the best we can with what we got."
A few dozen against the men of hell Bane had brought with him? And then, there was the matter of the devil himself . . . She felt fear in her bones then, knit into her very marrow as she thought of the masked man, and she tried to push past it (not remembering the pain in Bruce's voice; the sound of the spaces between his vertebra as they split – she did not). But her eyes were not quick enough to disguise her thoughts, for there was something else in Blake's expression then, something distinctively Wayne-shaped and Selina narrowed her own eyes at him, daring.
"We could use all the hands we could get," he said then. "You have a way of surviving – adapting. We sorely need whatever help we can get."
She raised a brow, not knowing whether or not she should be mocking or amused.
And he squared his jaw, and pressed on, his eyes shaped as if to hunt. "But if you are busy, I completely understand," he spread his hands, encompassing the empty city, the still waters, all around them. His eyes were condescending, his tone biting. "I can't imagine that this city has left you with anything more than a coupld of shallow pockets to pick."
Perhaps not a sparrow, she lets herself think grudgingly. Some raptor then. A hunting bird with a sharp beak and avian claws. Even so . . . "What can I say, I have a full schedule," she returned. She shifted her weight; found her balance on the ice.
Blake shook his head, and in his eyes there was . . . disappointment? She tasted something sour in her mouth at the sight. "Bruce trusted you." And she felt heat rise in her veins. As if that should mean something, solve everything . . . "Bruce trusted you, and I trust you now."
His words struck. Like a knife. "And look where it got him," she said softly, whispered past what he would be able to hear. The words were bitter, unkind.
She closed her eyes at the weight of her thoughts, but she didn't tell Blake about the way Bruce had yelled his war cries that night in the sewers. She didn't tell him how the masked man opposite of Bruce had been all cool silence and pointed words, even stronger than the shadow of the bat around him. She didn't tell him about how the mask her shattered under the other's blows, revealing Wayne's face, bruised and beaten beneath . . . how his back had split as easily as a child would have split a popsicle in two.
She didn't tell him that she remembered the shape of his mother's pearls under her fingers. It was a memory she still held in the whorls of her skin, in the curve of her fingernail. It was a sacred thing to someone without god or godliness, something she let herself remember on the nights when the city grew too cold, the future too absolute.
And she . . . she didn't tell him that Bruce Wayne's eyes had smiled like a child taking a dare when she had kissed him. She didn't tell him that for a moment she had found something worth stealing in flesh and bone as she left a red stain and took what she wanted as he watched her leave. She didn't tell him that she had felt his eyes on the sway of her stride, on the curve of her hip, and for the first, she had wanted a man to look at her – to look at her for her, and not for some mark or paltry gem to steal. She didn't tell him of the way her breath had caught in her lungs, as if she were a schoolgirl scribbling pencil hearts and forevers into her notebooks.
She didn't tell him of her guilt – what she calls by its proper name in her moments of weakness, when her deeds couldn't be pushed aside as what had to be done, and this city is as hard as it has made me.
She didn't speak a word, and Blake only nodded his farewell as she brushed by him, his head hung down as if disappointed. She didn't dare look at his eyes – a moment of weakness, of cowardliness on her part (self protection, she'll later call it). Perhaps he was more like Wayne than she had first given him credit for. Wings or beaks, they were all the same – hunting creatures, night-bred, looking for kindred spirits in the wrong shadows.
What you see is what you get, fellas, she wanted to say into the air. I am what I am. Instead, she was silent as she let the winter close in and swallow her once more.